Santigie Borbor Kanu was indicted on 15 September 2003.
He was arrested and transferred to the Special Court for Sierra Leone on 16 September 2003.
He was accused of crimes against humanity, violations of Article 3 Common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II (commonly known as war crimes) and other serious violations of international humanitarian law, in conformity with Articles 2, 3 and 4 of the Statute of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL).
At his initial court appearances on 23 September 2003, he pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
The indictment set out that during the relevant period, starting on 30 November 1996, a state of armed conflict existed in Sierra Leone and that a link existed between the armed conflict in question and the acts and omissions considered to constitute violations of Articles 2, 3 and 4 of the Statute of the SCSL.
As stated in the indictment, Santigie Borbor Kanu, together with all the other members of the corps of organised armed forces involved in hostilities in Sierra Leone, had an obligation to conform to the rules of international humanitarian law as well as to the rules and customs governing the conduct of hostilities.
The AFRC/RUF coalition and Santigie Borbor Kanu, in his capacity as a leader of the AFRC, were alleged to have worked together on the same plan and goal thereby constituting a common criminal conspiracy which led concretely to concerted operations undertaken with a view to take over power in Sierra Leone and to control the diamond rich regions, particularly in the districts of Kenema and Kono. The atrocities committed against the civilian populations (murder, amputations, abductions, forced labour, burning down of villages, use of child soldiers, multiple violations of sexual integrity, forced marriages) were apparently an integral part of the plan drawn up by the AFRC/RUF coalition or at the very least could be considered as an inevitable consequence of such a plan which included the terrorizing and collective punishment of the civilian population as a method of taking control over the territory of Sierra Leone.
The indictment included 18 counts: acts of terrorism and collective punishments against the civilian population (counts 1 and 2), acts of extermination, murder, and other life threatening offences (counts 3 to 5), sexual violence, including rape, sexual slavery and forced marriage (counts 6 to 9), violence to physical and mental well being, including amputation (counts 10 and 11), enlistment and use of child soldiers under 15 years of age (count 12), pillage (count 13), abduction and taking of hostages (count 14), and attacks against the personnel of UNAMSIL, the United Nations peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone (counts 15 to 18).
According to the charges, individual members of the AFRC/RUF coalition indicted by the SCSL acted in concert with Charles Taylor during the period covered by the act of indictment.
Santigie Borbor Kanu was held to be criminally responsible for the above mentioned crimes, whether it was for his personal contribution to their planning, instigating, and organizing in which he would have participated in one way or another, or alternatively where they are alleged to have been committed as part of a common criminal conspiracy in which he participated.
The indictment held him to have equal or additional responsibility in his role as hierarchical superior, for crimes committed by his subordinates, for which he had, or should have had, knowledge and also because he did not take the necessary measures aimed at the prevention or punishment of such crimes.
On 27 January 2004, the SCSL ordered the joint trial of Alex Tamba Brima, Santigie Borbor Kanu and Brima Bazzy Kamara.
The trial before the SCSL started on 7 March 2005. The defence testimony was concluded on 27 October 2006. The closing arguments took place on 7 December 2006.
On 20 June 2007, the three co-defendants were found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the SCSL.
On 19 July 2007, Tamba Brima and Santigie Borbor Kanu were sentenced to 50 years imprisonment. Brima Bazzy Kamara was sentenced to 45 years. The three were set to serve their prison sentences in Sweden or Austria rather than Sierra Leone because of security concerns.
The verdicts were the first delivered by the SCSL. This constitutes the first time in the history of international criminal justice that former rebel leaders were found guilty and sentenced to heavy prison terms for the recruitment of child soldiers.
On 22 February 2008, the Appeals Chamber confirmed the sentences handed down by the Trial Chamber. It found that acts of forced marriage amount to a separate crime under international law. This was the first such finding by any international court. It declined however, to enter new convictions.The Appeals Chamber also reversed a Trial Chamber decision that the prosecution had not properly pleaded the issue of joint criminal enterprise. The Appeals Chamber found that the issue of the joint criminal enterprise had been properly pleaded in the indictment, but it did not enter additional convictions.
Kanu was transferred to Rwanda on 30 October 2009, where he shall serve his sentence.
Trial Watch would like to remind its users that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.